Finding the Right Space for Spiritual Direction

Finding the Right Space for Spiritual Direction April 21, 2014

Spiritual directors must pay special attention to the space they use for direction.  It needs to be quiet, comfortable, private and uncluttered. The space needs to mirror the contemplative work that will be done in it. The best spaces are artistically beautiful yet not overtly “religious.”

You may be wondering, “What’s wrong with putting my religious knick knacks around the room?” Well, what is religiously significant to you may be a huge distraction to your directee. I don’t think directors have to go overboard and have a blank room, but think carefully about the art you put up in the space.  For example, I was once invited for centering prayer into a spiritual direction room (in a church) that had words and phrases pasted tastefully around the room. Things like “Believe” and “Faith.” That, of course, did not bother me. But the candle in the center of the room had the words of a Sunday School song I used to know as a child: Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.  As I sat and tried to become contemplative, that little ditty kept going through my mind as a constant distraction. That’s when I became vigilant about how my own spiritual direction room needs to look and feel!

Many spiritual directors use a room in their home for this work. If that feels right for you, then go for it. However, there are some drawbacks to using your home. Someone else may live there and may feel constrained by having to be quiet or not use the room you are using. Pets can be a huge distraction (I know some directors and directees like having pets in the room but I do not. Pets will always find a way to be the center of attention!). People who are allergic to your pets will have trouble in your house even if you clean it well and your pets are put in a separate space. Also, think carefully about how comfortable you are with having people in your home. Some people love to entertain and keep their house in sparkling condition all the time for that purpose. Others (like me) find it a bit anxiety-producing to run around the pick up my significant other’s socks and chase dust bunnies down before every appointment.

Which is why I rent space outside my home. This is costly but I have found it is much more conducive to a contemplative experience. I rent a room in an office of therapists. It costs me about the price of seeing five directees a month. Since I usually see about 20 a month, I find this to be an acceptable cost of doing business.  If renting commercial space seems out of the question, see if a church near you would offer you free or low-cost space.

When you use donated space in a church, you have less control over what the space looks and feels like. I have worked in church rooms that have a lot of religious posters on the wall, which did not feel contemplative to me. Also, church offices can be noisy and lacking in privacy. So shop around and find one that works for you.

Finding the right space for spiritual direction is a challenge. It is an issue of discernment for the spiritual director. You may have to try a few different spaces out before you find your “promised land” in spiritual direction.

For more about spiritual direction as I practice it, check out my website. If you have questions or comments about the content of Spiritual Direction 101, please let me hear from you in the reply section below.

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